Green Day on just saying yes:
DIRNT: I think drinking and doing drugs are very important. When Billie gave me a shuffle beat for "Longview," I was flying on acid so hard. I was laying up against the wall with my bass lying on my lap. It just came to me. I said, "Bill, check this out. Isn't this the wackiest thing you've ever heard?" Later, it took me a long time to be able to play it, but it made sense when I was on drugs. To me everybody should drop acid at least once. Well, some people don't have the right personality for it. But it is important.
Tre: When people bring weed to our shows, that's wonderful. I'm the guinea pig. If somebody throws a bag of weed onstage, Billie will watch to make sure we don't get all fucked up on it, but I dive right in.
ARMSTRONG: I think I have a bit of an alcohol problem right now. I drink every day, and I use it as a crutch to relax me. I'm not abusive, I just think I drink a little too much sometimes. The main thing of choice for us – well, Tré really likes pot – but the main thing of choice was speed. People think that we're this big pot-smoking band even though we sound like an amphetamine band, but I dabbled a lot in speed for a long time. That was the drug of choice on the scene I came from.
"I have a lot of things I need to deal with. My mom is on welfare at the moment."
It's 10:30 in the morning, and Mike Dirnt is downing a second cup of wake-up coffee. The topic is just what exactly comes next. He shifts in his chair, smiles and admits that because of his heart condition, he should really cut down on caffeine. That said, he smiles again, swallows another gulp and continues.
"People keep saying, 'You have all this money, why is your mom on welfare?' But I haven't taken a break yet," Dirnt says. "I plan to deal with that. It's stressful to see your mom and worry about her health. She and my stepsisters aren't starving, but they're living poor. I'd certainly like to take the pain of worrying off them."
It's assessment time. For Green Day the yearlong tour has ended – concluding with a performance on Saturday Night Live and a multiband show at New York's Madison Square Garden – and the moment has arrived to reclaim their personal lives, assuming they can figure out just what that means. Armstrong and Tré have each purchased homes – Armstrong in the most residential of neighborhoods, a close walk from his favorite record store and the teen-age punks and aging, bead-selling hippies that litter Telegraph Avenue; Tré in the more secluded Oakland Hills. Both are hoping to await the arrivals of their new families peacefully. Dirnt is considering a move, but he's not sure he's ready quite yet. The only certainty is that the group is taking an extended break in order to refuel.
"This tour we've all had so many of our own problems, relationshipwise and everything, that we've all kept a lot bottled in," says Dirnt. "I'm sure every one of us, in our own way this year, has wanted to blow our fucking head off. But I think we're all not that type of personality."
Amid the personal politics of leapfrogging from obscurity to stardom lie innate questions of whether a band can truly retain its value system while its external surroundings alter drastically. Shifting from virtual poverty to financial security alone raises such quandaries. Although it is too early to judge, for their part, Green Day have given two key indications that they may just practice what they continually preach. First, the band successfully took on Ticketmaster – a task perhaps made easier by Pearl Jam's ongoing battle with the ticketing giant – to ensure that prices for their most recent tour would not exceed $15. Second, and most important to the community from which they sprang, was their insistence that Lookout! Records retain 100 percent of the rights to their first two albums. With record sales sure to take off, this guarantees an overwhelming financial boom that should keep that scene funded for years.
"It's about the weirdest thing I've ever seen," says Weasel, whose current band, the Riverdales, is also on Lookout! "When we met them, Mike and Billie were 17. We stayed up in the mountains at Lawrence Livermore's with them, and we were so disgusted by these guys. We thought they were the biggest idiots we ever met. They were so drunk that they were puking, and they were constantly smoking pot. So the next time I saw them, I was pretty wary. They came up, and they were really nice and clearheaded. In terms of how they've dealt with success, amazingly they've gotten more mature and less impressed by the whole rockstar hype. They've actually become really great people."
To help facilitate that process, each band member talks separately about the need to get back to some semblance of normalcy. Tre's plan is to spend as much time as possible doing nothing. Dirnt wants to play with a wide range of musicians – jazz, funk, rock – before once again working on Green Day material. He also talks about the possibility of indulging in his dream of someday doing stand-up comedy. Armstrong, meanwhile, is set to begin Lamaze classes with Adrienne. ("One thing I want to teach my son is sensitivity to other people," says Armstrong of his approaching fatherhood. "I want to teach him not to be this macho freak.") There are also songs to write and a world of people who know him as Billie Joe Armstrong that he needs to reacquaint himself with.
"Right now, I don't know my family as much as I did a while back," Armstrong says. "That's kind of depressing. I lost contact with a lot of people."
Armstrong's family concurs. "I get mad at him sometimes because he separates himself from the family, and I'm not always sure why," says Anna Armstrong. "But he's a good boy. He's a good brother and a good uncle to my son. Success isn't going to change that. He's still the same person. I asked if there was anything he didn't want me to talk about, and he said no. He said, 'Tell him I pee the bed.' Because he wet his bed all through childhood. I said, 'You still do,' and he said, 'I know, I just did the other night.' That's Billie Joe – he's 22, and he still wets the bed."
All the more fuel for those who dismiss Green Day as kids – young brats getting paid to kick up a racket and get in trouble on the playground. Which, in turn, is more fuel for Green Day.
"I could care less if people think I'm insignificant because I'm 22 years old," says Armstrong. "That's great. We caused a generation gap. Great. Most of the bands around now, I've been playing music longer than they have, and I'm also way younger than they are."
So now, more than a decade into a partnership that truly did begin on the grade-school playground, Armstrong and Dirnt often find themselves in the most overwhelming circumstances – onstage at sold-out arenas, playing the MTV Video Music Awards, besieged by fans wanting autographs – and looking at each other, not knowing whether to laugh or run away.
"I told Bill, 'Let's just take it as far as we can,' " says Dirnt. " 'Eventually, we'll lose all the money and everything else, anyway. Let's just make sure we have one great big story at the end.' " He pauses and considers what he has just said. "I think we will." He stops again. "In a lot of ways, we already do."
This story is from the January 26, 1995 issue of Rolling Stone.
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